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Personal Digital Storytelling as an autobiographical tool for revisiting experiences of indi-viduals in educational contexts
di Carolina Santiago-Sota   

Il Digital Storytelling è diventato uno strumento molto potente e interessante che può essere utilizzato in contesti diversi.

Nato come prodotto artistico, è stato rapidamente adottato in altri campi, come contesti educativi e sanitari. È innegabile che la narrazione sia parte integrante dell'essere umano, come un prodotto comunicativo, ma anche si può dire che la narrazione è parte del processo di pensiero degli esseri umani che aiuta a riflettere su di sé, per spiegare le situazioni all'interno della loro vita e anche come strumento educativo in contesti formali e non formali. Seguendo la proposta metodologica di Londoño (che ha sede a quello sviluppato negli anni '90 dall'ex Center for Digital Storytelling, ora chiamato StoryCenter) e nell'ambito del dottorato di ricerca Personal Digital Storytelling (PDS) come strumento per gli ambienti educativi non violenti noi istituito un laboratorio in un programma di laurea di Educazione sociale presso l'Università di Barcellona (UB). In questa esperienza abbiamo chiesto gli studenti a sviluppare una storia digitale personale della violenza nelle scuole, la violenza sociale o la non-violenza che ha avuto luogo all'interno della scuola, le loro case o uno specifico contesto sociale.

Da un'esperienza con 28 storie prodotte dagli studenti, attingiamo ai fini del presente articolo una storia da analizzare come un caso di studio in quanto è un buon esempio di come utilizzare PDS come strumento educativo potrebbe contribuire non solo a sviluppare (o rafforzare ) competenze tecnologiche, orali e scritte, ma anche come uno strumento per la riflessione autobiografica. Questo esempio mostra come questo strumento ha contribuito allo studente di individuare una scuola episodio di violenza nella sua vita e di come si auto-riflessa su questo e ha trovato una voce diversa per elaborare ed esprimere una parte della sua storia personale.


Digital Storytelling has become a very powerful and interesting tool to be used in different contexts. Even though it started as an artistic product, it was adopted rapidly by other fields, such as educational and health settings. It is undeniable that storytelling is an inherent part of being human, as a communicational product, but also we can say that storytelling is part of the thinking process of humans that helps to reflect upon themselves, to explain situations within their lives and also as an educational tool within formal and non-formal contexts.

By following the methodological proposal of Londoño (that is based in the one developed in the 90’s by the former Center for Digital Storytelling, now called StoryCenter) and as part of the doctoral research Personal Digital Storytelling (PDS) as tool for nonviolent educational environments we set up a workshop in a undergraduate program of Social Education at the University of Barcelona (UB). In this experience we asked the students to develop a personal digital story of school violence, social violence or nonviolence that took place within the school, their homes or a specific social context.

From an experience with 28 stories produced by the students, we draw for purposes of this article one story to be analyzed as a case study as it is a good example of how using PDS as an educational tool could help not only to develop (or strengthen) technological, oral and written competences, but also as an autobiographical tool for reflection. This example shows how this tool helped the student to identify a school violence episode in her life and how she self-reflected upon this and found a different voice to process and express a part of her personal history.


1. Introduction


Communication is a natural process for all kinds of living beings. We can talk about communication amongst unicellular organisms that occurs at a basic level (molecular information exchange) and we also can talk about communication amongst more complex organisms such as animals with their own particular characteristics (signs, smells, movements and sounds, all material of ethological studies). But human being as a larger organism went beyond these basic communication skills and developed a process that always has a purpose, a goal to achieve. This means that human communication is teleological (Gallardo, 2002, p. 29). We also can find this characteristic in smaller animals, with observable signs as sounds and physical displays in order to make others to know if they’re looking for a mate, protect their territory or looking for food (Carranza, 1994), but in humans this process is more complex.

Human beings can communicate through signs, symbols and long structured phrases using different languages (verbal and non-verbal) using a wide variety of instruments or media (Gallardo, 2002), but one remarkable characteristic is that they can create and communicate through stories. These are specific communicative products that we tell to ourselves (intrapersonal communication) or to others (interpersonal communication). And stories, as pointed out by Londoño (2013) are “inherent to human kind. It is a natural mechanism with several finalities”(p. 1), reaffirming the idea of its teleological nature.

We’ve being telling stories since beginning of our time. We can see them in the Lascaux caves and imagine how this pre-historic individuals took the time to leave behind their story in rock. No matter if those paintings were made, as supposed by some, with an educational purpose or as a shamanic “trance” or even as a “photography” of a specific moment during a hunting party (Montes, 2012). The transformation of the events into visual elements and the ability of reconstructing those elements into a scene is only human. The story was told and keeps whispering through time.

At the beginning, after verbal communication was developed, these stories where part of the oral tradition in all the cultures around the world, and after that the writing tradition took place as the main carrier of storytelling. But nowadays stories can be found as part of the vast and complex human communication ecosystem that contains traditional and digital media.


2. Digital Storytelling: a quick review


Within this ecosystem we can find Digital Storytelling (DST), and we can track back its origins to two sources (Lambert, 2012; Londoño, 2013). Amongst the first source, and during the boom of CD-ROM production back in the 90’s, we can find the work I photograph to remember, a multimedia CD-ROM released in 1991 created by Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer. In this work, the artist put together a series of photographs that tell the story of his parents, especially his father, during a period of time when they fought against cancer until their deaths. With Meyer’s voice narrating in chronological order their story and with the music composed by his son, this was an artistic experiment, and one of the first attempts to develop a story with these characteristics (personal story, first person narration and voice, personal photographs) using new media technological supports[1].

The other source is the work done by Joe Lambert, Dana Atchley, both artists (from the theater, and music performance) and later with Nina Mullen. As told by Lambert they began their activities in part thanks to Atchley’s work with his Next Exit show, which was – in Lambert’s words – “a guided tour of Dana’s life”, putting his presence, personal photographs, videos projected on a backdrop and music all together as a “multimedia autobiography” in a stage in the early 90’s. They also began to use and experiment with new technology to improve the show. Later, they began their workshops where they were “having people make short, personal video-stories similar in style to the stories that he [Atchley] had been telling for years” (Lambert, 2012, p. 77). The group began its formal activity in 1994 as the San Francisco digital media center, later in 1998 and based in Berkeley, CA., adopted the name of Center for digital storytelling (CDS)[2], and in 2015 changed its name to StoryCenter (SC) (http://www.storycenter.org/press/).

We can say that after exploring technological possibilities given by the new media options (smaller and easy-to-use computers, friendly non-linear editing, etc.) they refined their process for creating digital stories and shifted from an artistic approach towards a social curriculum: making stories, promoting listening, educating in technology appropriation as a means for “healing” a specific population and creating healthy communities (Lambert in Gregori-Signes & Brígido-Corachán, 2014). And without a doubt, this group was the main founder of what we’ve come to know as digital storytelling with most of its known characteristics.

So far, we can recognize digital stories as: “nonprofessional stories, that last few minutes, that can be multimedia and linear (non interactive) and, above all, they narrate a fact taken from the own experiences or life stories of the author, or based in his/her own reflection or point of view on determined matters” (Rodríguez Illera & Londoño, 2010, p. 56).

This means that somebody that is not formed as a professional media producer, with some help can develop a communicative product that could contain still images, videos, music and sound effects, but the most important part of all: the author’s voice telling his or her story, no matter if they were the protagonists or bystanders that had been influenced or affected in a way that somehow generated a change within their selves. This is the personal aspect and what differentiates a personal digital story (PDS) from other types of digital narratives.


2.1 The seven personal digital stories’ constitutive elements

Most of the methodologies that are in use today came from the one proposed by the SC and recognized by most the scholars to be followed when creating a digital story (Londoño, 2013; Lunby, 2008; Matthews-DeNatale, 2008). We are basing our experience with the revisited proposal by Rodríguez Illera and Londoño (2010), which includes the “traditional” seven constitutive steps:


1)  Author-narrator’s point of view: the narrative will always include the “I” or “me” pronouns, as self-expression and as a chance to let others know their particular standing point during a determined situation, their actions and motivations and how the author-narrator organized these elements in a very unique knowledge and/or experience.

2)  Dramatic question: one or more questions that let the audience/public know what happened or what is going to happen. This in order to conform a structure within the story and keep the interest in the narrative. We also include here the basic “five questions” of Who, What, Why, Where and How, that would help the development and understanding of the story.

3)  Emotional content: emotional elements are desirable in any story, but in a digital story it’s a basic element to constantly aim for, especially if that - having such a little time - we want some engagement level. These elements are going to appeal to empathy, and without this element a story might not be memorable or serve to generate a change in the author and/or the public, because we believe that empathy is a “tool for politics” (Poletti, 2011) and social transformation.

4)  Author’s own voice: it is related to the first step and also related to the actual fact of how we tell (and record) our voices. Being aware of the tone and the pacing will also influence the emotional content and has to agree with the other multimedia elements.

5)  Soundtrack: all of us could say that a soundtrack can be powerful and has the ability to chance the mood in a visual product. Music and sounds can make a difference and could offer a set of layers of meaning. However, it is not a mandatory element to be used if the author believes that it won’t add an additional reading element to the story or even would get “in the way” of it.

6)  Economy: creating a super short story has it’s “inconveniences”, specifically for people that are not used to “edit”. “Less is more”. This means we have to put a relevant story and its relevant details together and also including just the right amount of multimedia elements to get a well-balanced digital story.

7)  Pacing: There’s nothing worse than a “flat” story. We don’t pay attention to it and even though it could contain an interesting point of view or a very empathic goal. This means that the rhythm is basic to make the public be interested. The pacing has to be coherent within all of the multimedia elements as well.


During our experience we put emphasis in these elements, and we constantly reminded them to the students to focus on what was expected whilst creating their stories, as “The impact of the seven elements is that, as a site of autobiographical narrative, digital storytelling coaxes life stories in response to very specific expectations about what constitutes a ‘good’ story […] and how that story can made intelligible to its intended audience (emphasizing affect, reverie, identification and the use of universal themes)” such as violence and nonviolence (Poletti, 2011).


3. About the autobiographic approach


As stated before, stories’ as a communication process have objectives and purposes that can comprehend aspects such as: interacting with others and feel safe as being part of a group; the transmission of thoughts and revisiting our own experiences as individuals or collectives, also as a register to prolong and learn from the memory of persons and communities; to build and re-build an individual and a social identity; to face everyday life situations as an individual process, to organize, explain and give sense to all of those experiences (Londoño, 2013).

Many of these stories’ objectives have been pointed out and analyzed by several authors, and we can say that they all are threads from the same complex “fabric” (Morin, 1990) that is human life in general, and our own individual autobiography in specific, as Bruner (2004) points out: “autobiography (formal or informal) should be viewed as a set of procedures for ‘life making’” (p. 45) and maybe stories are the only way to describe our passage in this life.

Following Bruner’s idea, the narrative that is in a life story is always reflective, as the narrator and the main character are a single unit, even though in the story she or he is or not the main character. By being a single unit, the narrator has to retrieve from the memory those past events that she or he is talking about – “we are not autobiographical subjects at every moment of the day” (Smith & Watson, 1996 in Poletti, 2011, p. 98) –, organized them (usually in coherent units that are arrange in a determined timeline), and maybe explain those events, but, above all, as stated before, when explaining such episodes, not only describing them, there’s an interpretation that looks to give sense to a person’s life.

However, this search for meaning is not fully satisfied all the time, mainly because the narrative that we make of our daily life stays out of the “canonical forms” established in the cultural accepted narratives (Bruner, 2004), or maybe because they’re simply not externalized and there is not a communicational feedback given by someone that helps us rebuild that meaning. This indicates that we develop an autobiographical process that is not shared in everyday life by the impossibility to find common ground with a person, communication problems (not sharing a common language, the existence of hierarchy issues, etc.), and mainly because of the individual’s self-restrictions, like shyness and fear.

This fear is derived in many occasions by the imbalance between what is in the story and the “canonical”. Is right here in this “imbalance” or space where digital storytelling can be situated, as it can give voice to people that wants to tell their story, in our particular case, people that could had suffered abuse, violence or that wanted to share how they managed conflictive episodes in their lives.

There are several projects of digital storytelling serving as an autobiographical tool that offers an outlet for violated, marginalized and/or disempowered people, one of those, for example, is the work of the Silence Speaks project with the Sonke people in Eastern Cape, South Africa that guided a series of PDS workshops in a non-formal context in order to enhance activism (gender equality and gender based violence) and a health-behavior change (reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS) in a very conflictive community; through stories made by young people, was promoted self-reflection and engagement of their identities as active members and change producers of such community[3].

Another example is the project Youth Worx[4] based in Melbourne, Australia that serves as a space for young people, outside school settings for creating music, radio and short films, some of them with PDS characteristics, but also calling them “monologues”, where they create (and with little participation from educators or tutors) their own stories based on their life experiences, “often riddled with endemic problems and put them ‘at risk’ of longstanding social marginalization in the first place: violence, street crime, or substance abuse”, and where the can develop a “right to voice […] complemented by a right to be understood”(Podkalicka & Campbell, 2010, p. 104).

In Spain, professor Miguel Herreros has been working with high school students for a few years now, where during formal classes’ hours they create digital stories with a strong autobiographic approach in order to examine elements of adolescent’s identity construction. Their stories explore a wide range of topics, not always related to violence, but many of them approaching conflictive moments in their lives. We can see some of these examples in the Virtual education and learning research group (GREAV in catalan) Digital Storytelling website[5].

This “imbalance” as stated before and the opportunity of enhancing students’ voices is why we centered our research not in the purely educational, technical and/or communicational approach of the PDS methodology, but as a tool that could bring out those true stories of school violence, social violence and nonviolence and let people be heard, because as said by Darcy (2008) “[…] the possibility of opening up a narrative to reveal multiple truths and more evocative, revelatory pathways for dialogue and understanding is often shut down. (Digital stories) can play some role in defying the silencing of experience that occurs when our fragmentary, messy lives are reduced to information” (p. 99). We don’t need more unrelated information, but stories that generate empathic processes in order to make meaningful personal and social changes.

Returning to the theory of autobiographical stories we can find Kenneth Burke’s pentad and its elements explained by Bruner (2004): an Agent, an Action, a Goal, a Setting, an Instrument and a Trouble. “Trouble is what drives the drama, and it is generated by a mismatch between two or more of the five constituents” (p. 75) of the pentad, says Bruner. In general, in most of the stories there is a strong crisis for the Narrator-Agent relation, and this can be seen in many of the narratives related to violence, specifically school violence: there is a real or perceived lack of agency. Understanding agency as “the initiation of relatively autonomous acts governed by our intentional states – our wishes, desires, beliefs, and expectancies” (Bruner, 1994 in Hull & Katz, 2006) or as the possibility of one individual to actively participate and have an influence in his or her reality. We can see this situation clearly further in our reviewed case “Esperanza o desesperanza”.


4. The PDS methodology in an educational setting


For the larger research that we carried out, we decided to use a methodological design of multiple case study, with three different settings: one setting in Mexico City in a secondary school, another with students of an undergraduate program of the University of Barcelona (UB) and a third one, also at the UB with students of a master’s class. For each of one of these experiences we used inbound and outbound surveys, interviews and field work with participative and reactive observation, as the researcher also functioned as the workshop facilitator. In the larger study we pretend to describe how the process was carried out in each one of the settings, what obstacles we found during the processes and the differences between them and the good practices found in literature. As well, we will draw a few examples of each setting as case studies that could help us to propose a modified PDS methodology that could be applied specifically when dealing with sensitive issues such as violence.

For purposes of this paper, we describe one of those three settings, from which we draw one personal video as a case study considering the information gathered from the surveys, the field research process, an interview and the final product, as it is a very representative example of how the PDS methodology can be used as an autobiographical and self-reflective tool.

During the months of November and December of 2015, we carried out a PDS workshop within the course Uses, possibilities and limits of the information and communication technologies, from the undergraduate program of Social Education at the UB. This is an obligatory course for the first year of the program and it is carried out as a formal, a face-to-face class with some elements of online support. Within its objectives there is to let students know the possibilities that the new media has in social educational settings and how to develop a series of implementation strategies. As digital storytelling was included in the course’s program previously, the designated teacher, knowing that we were working on the subject asked us to participate as facilitators. We embedded the workshop in the regular lesson hours, so at the end we had an approximate of 18 hours of work with the students.

We followed the methodology proposed by Londoño in her doctoral thesis (2013) based in her previous work with several groups, mainly secondary school students. However, we had to adapt the methodology so it could fit into the regular course’s times and group dynamics’, meaning that we had to sacrifice work hours, cut steps and rely on the work done by the students in their houses. In this paper we are not going to explain this process as it is not its purpose, but we will draft part of it.

We worked with the students (28 in total, 23 women and 5 men) following the steps proposed also by Rodríguez Illera and Londoño (2010). For the first step, the general approach to digital storytelling, we gave the students an introduction to what digital story is, an overview of the seven steps and what was required from them, the technical procedures to be followed and we showed some videos as examples. Also, we have to point out that as being part of a research, the stories have to be, even though open to a lot of possible story lines, related to a subject or idea of school violence, social violence, social education and/or nonviolence and their role as future social education professionals.

At the beginning there was some reticence from the students that was evident: they didn’t want to talk about any of these things, most of them because argued that they “never lived or known anything related to (school) violence” (field notes, author, 2015). We were putting an extra element to the traditional methodology that is usually not asked for: to choose within the pool of the students’ minds a determinate episode of their lives. Also, to make it easier for some of them, we emphasized that even though stories have to be done in first person’s voice they could function also as a narrator or an observer from a third party’s story, but always putting themselves as part of the action.

For the second step, regarding conceptualization and planning, we explained how to write the literary script, explaining the basic principles of the narrative arc and we also reviewed a few individual possibilities that some students presented. After this, we continued with the Story Circle (Burguess, 2006; High, 2010; Lambert, 2006 in Lundby, 2008), that some authors recognize as the most important part of the process and consists in gathering the participants into a circle where everybody reads their script and takes note on the comments of the other participants in order to improve the story, and maybe express what kind of difficulties are presenting regarding the production process. In this particular case, within lesson’s hours we could read just some of the stories, however the students recognize that this part of the process was important for them as it allowed them, not just receive comments on their stories, their producing process and how to improve them, but also they stated that was interesting to know in a different manner what their classmates had been through and empathize with them (field notes, author, 2015).

Later, we continued with the third step or technical sessions related to storyboarding, video editing and the use music tools (such as Audacity) for voice recording and how to organize the whole production process to facilitate postproduction; as well as where to find free multimedia resources and the importance of using open source programs and avoid copyright infringement. During this period we continued giving personal tutoring spaces for reviewing and adjusting the final scripts.

As we pointed out before, for the forth step or postproduction step, most of it – and with a few exceptions –, was carried out by the students in their homes, because time was not on our side and the conditions of the equipment that was available in school (very slow machines, with outdated programs such as Windows Movie Maker and the impossibility to install other necessary programs as format converters). Also, many students argued that it was better for them to edit their videos at home, as they felt more comfortable using their own equipment.

When the course finished, we only met in part with the fifth and last step: diffusion or broadcasting, as due to schedule we had the opportunity to show only five of the personal videos in front of the class, not having the opportunity to repeat it as it was 23rd of December and last day of the academic year, though there were at least two stories that the students, after the story circle day wanted to see. Of the five videos that could show, three of them generated a very good impression on the group as they recognize the quality of the story (field notes, author, 2015). Regarding the evaluation of the project being part of this step, we could say that was made weeks later by the leading teacher, to which we offered a rubric for PDS to follow for grading the stories.


4.1 Adriana’s “Esperanza o desesperanza”

In English, Adriana’s story is translated as Hope or despair, being “Esperanza” the name of her math teacher during the last two years of secondary school in Barcelona. We chose this story because, even though it is a little longer (1,242 words in 7’05’’) than what is usually asked and expected, it contains all of the elements of the steps as required during the lessons; we also consider it as original and well executed in format and content.

Adriana had a first idea of what she could do at the beginning of the course (one narrative that included her baby sitter), but when asked to focus the narrative on any of the required subjects, after a couple of weeks she decided to go for this story.

The video starts with Adriana’s voice saying: “This one that you see half afraid, half stressed with question marks floating over her head, it’s me, when I was 15 years (old), trying (unsuccessfully) to understand something of what is written on the board in third year of ESO’s math class”[6]. And at the same time we can see this image:



Regarding the format, Adriana chose to tell her story by using drawings that she made by herself (as she was an arts high school student). She used a total of 24 images, mostly in black and white (just one image contains some green and red colors), that in general are static but with some “pseudo stop-motion animation” as she incorporates elements to the same drawing to illustrate her narrative. There is only one image – number Eight that is a small video – of her drawing the teacher’s “portrait”. She also opted for not incorporating soundtrack music to the story, but only at the end during the credits. Rather, she chose to focus on the story with using only her voice, with a very clear speech and an adequate pace, using only some sound effects (five in total, and one very meaningful silence that added some humor to her narrative).

Even though Adriana’s drawings are “minimalist doodles” as she called them, she opted for this because she felt that photographs wouldn’t have had the impact, “it was going to stay superficial”, Adriana said. This means that, even though the conceptualization process was hard for her, she looked for something with more “depth” to tell her personal story.

She only required some assistance from us during the conceptualization step to delimit her script. Also, she said that one friend (also a girl with an artistic side) helped her with the storyboarding process. However, Adriana production was made all by herself as she has a good level of technical, oral and writing competences, as previously she was a student of an undergraduate program of Visual Communication in a different university in Barcelona.

Regarding the content, Adriana speaks about how her life was profoundly affected during those years by her performance in math class and her relationship with her teacher. She acknowledges that was not an excelled student in this subject and how her teacher instead of helping her, was being violent, by belittling her and putting her learning struggle in evidence in front of the class, amongst other violent attitudes. Also, she tells how, even though there were made some complaints by her and her parents, the school authorities didn’t take action into changing things, making Adriana’s situation worse for two whole scholar years[7] of crying and despair, until she managed to study enough to pass the final test and not to repeat the class and be able to go to arts high school.

Her story has a very clear “dramatic structure” (Ohler & Dillingham, 2004) with a beginning to action, a problematic situation, a change or climax and a final resolution, that makes her story easy to understand and follow. We believe that this clear dramatic structure was generated thanks to her previous reflective process. As she recalls in her interview (carried out in March of 2016), she told her story several times previously to different people[8], friends and family, repeating the “same” story over and over, trying to find sense to her situation and to find a solution.

But she didn’t understand – until she made her digital story – that she was a victim of a clear case of school violence: an imbalanced teacher – student relationship. “It was very hard for me to detect the situation. And I really had a very bad time. Well, me and the other four ‘pringaos’ that had a hard time with mathematics”[9].

Even though she was not a small child but still a young teenager, we could see what Carolina Øverlien (2014) says regarding violence narratives: “[…] for many children the violence is incomprehensible and confusing, and that many of them have not been able to connect their feelings to the violence and the actors. From a psychological and developmental point of view, it is considered important that children are able to narrate potentially traumatic experiences such as domestic violence. Personal experience narratives are meaning-making units of discourse and are, as such, important in the construction of identity.

There was an “artificial moment” in Adriana’s life when we asked her to create a PDS as an exercise where we moved her towards her own “autobiographical subjectivity” (Poletti, 2011) and where she had the necessity to tell her story in a different way as she always did (Demetrio, 1996) and there, she had the chance to reflect again and from a different point of view (as an adult and social education student) on her own past and actions and how even though she suffered violence to the point of recognizing being traumatized, she finally became an active agent in her life, changing it, learning from it and “healing” (Demetrio, 1996).

Hull and Katz (2006, p. 67) say that “stories provide people with cathartic outlets that help them make peace with upsetting events and resolve intrapsychological conflicts” and we can see this happened with Adriana when she says in her interview: “[…] it [the PDS] helped me to clarify, to let out what I had inside and realize where it is (sic.), what had happened, and that, really understand a little in what point I am with my relationship with mathematics since I had this contact with this teacher. For example, at mathematics’ level, it really had an impact in my self-confidence, which derived in other things. I have a phobia to mathematics that is not normal. […] To others? I don’t know […] I would try to say that you have to do everything that’s in your hands to change that situation, and if you can’t, at least transform it to protect yourself and realize that, beyond what anyone can say, you have your own self-conception, that for me it is worth more that whatever anyone could say about it”[10].

Towards the end of the video we could hear her voice saying: “I got and 8 and a half, she [the teacher] didn’t congratulate me or made any commentary, but it was the same for me. That was the greatest satisfaction and finale that I could’ve had, the greatest demonstration for her and for me of been able to break the mold that she had thought for me”[11].

We can say that making her own PDS helped Adriana to generate a “turning point”[12], a change: her autobiography won’t be the same as the experience now has an additional explanatory element, she wanted to retell her story again for letting other people know what it is to be treated as she was. “In storytelling, the process of re/considering and actively re/constituting stories through collective and internal dialogue, ‘a sense of agency in the face of disempowering circumstances, is constructed” (Jackson, 2002, p. 15 in Darcy, 2008). If Adriana wouldn’t have made this process her sense of agency, as student and as individual would have affected severely her sense of self. Now, she can offer her story to others in alike situations, for them to empathize with her and probably generate a similar “turning point”.


5. Conclusion

We understand that one case study such as Adriana’s “Esperanza o desesperanza” can only offer a glimpse of the kind of results we can get when using PDS as an educational and autobiographical tool. However, we expect that our larger study will provide a bigger picture on how PDS can serve as a tool for addressing violence and for generating nonviolent educational contexts.

There are several projects that try to address violence in schools and promoting nonviolent actions, however, in most of the cases there is a lack of reliable statistics, ad in-depth research as “tangible” means to provide useful information: often people is reduced to numbers and in many cases numbers, just as people don’t speak out loud. Digital stories can function as a qualitative approach to understand and face these specific social problems.

The first results of the second experience at the UB with under-graduated students, have indicated us that there is still work to be done regarding the adaptation of the methodology in formal educational contexts that are not traditional settings for PDS practices, in order to guide, facilitate and even motivate the students into doing their digital stories and reaching their “turning points”. Also, we understand that in traditional practices there are no pre-established narrative conditions such as we did in our three experiences. Still, with Adriana’s story (and some of the other produced videos we are still analyzing, and that would also serve as additional case studies), we’ve come to know that it is possible to use the PDS methodology in this manner and that we can get effective and affective outcomes.

Nevertheless, our case sums up to the other experiences carried out around the world, where we can see and identify that within digital stories there are a series of exposed personal experiences and thoughts organized as autobiographical processes, but most important: there is a recognition of those personal voices and reflections and how they can “entangle” in other life stories, generating feedback that could lead to personal learning and change beyond a formal educational setting.

Podkalicka and Campbell (2010) say that a “crafted voice requires the application of skills and a critical awareness of oneself and an audience for understanding to occur”. This happened with Adriana and her autobiographical digital episode, and we believe that when her video is published on line will generate resonance in other people’s experiences and maybe will help others to generate their own personal reflections and “turning points”. We will continue the work with the students and promote the creation of personal digital stories as a means not only for developing technological skills or storytelling competences, but as an autobiographical tool within a new empathetic and agent-driven learning ecology.




[1] This work and Meyer’s own reflection about his personal and work processes (Some Background Thoughts) Available in:


[2] We include this acronym as in many of the reviewed articles they use it. From now on we will refer to the center with their latest name as SC.

[3] For further reading regarding this project: Reed, A., & Hill, A. (2010). “Don’t keep it to yourself!”: Digital Storytelling with South African Youth. Seminar.NetInternational Journal of Media, Technology, & Lifelong Learning, 6(2) 268—279. Available in:

http://www.seminar.net/images/stories/vol6-issue2/Reed_prcent_26HillDon_prcent_26_prcent_23039_prcent_3BtKeepIttoYourself.pdf. and also the Silence Speak online cases. Available in:


[4] Youth Worx Media Project available in:


[5] Grup de Recerca Ensenyament i Aprenentatge Virtual of the University of Barcelona. Miguel Herrero’s uploads available in:


[6] “Esta que veis medio asustada, medio estresada con interrogantes flotando encima de la cabeza soy yo, a mis 15 años, intentado (sin éxito) entender algo de lo que hay escrito en la pizarra en clase de matemáticas de tercero de la ESO”.

[7] This violence situation continued with her sister having the same teacher and being an “extension” of Adriana, suffering some of the same violent cycle. Would be interesting that Adriana’s sister could make her own PDS also, in order to make a comparison between the two narratives.

[8] As a reflection on continuing this kind of studies, it would be interesting to make a long study about the differences amongst each time an individual tells a story and what impact does it have in his or her individual self-narrative.

[9] “[…] me costó muchísimo detectar la situación. Y realmente lo pasé muy mal. Bueno yo y los cuatro pringaos que también les costaban las matemáticas”.

[10] “[…] a mí me sirvió mucho para, para aclarar, para sacar también lo que llevaba dentro y para darme cuenta de dónde está, de lo que había pasado y que, o sea, realmente para entender un poco en qué punto estoy de mi relación, por ejemplo con las matemáticas, a partir de que tuve ese contacto con esa profesora, por ejemplo. Por ejemplo, pero a nivel a nivel de matemáticas, pero realmente incidió en tu seguridad personal, o sea, derivó en otras cosas, pero que yo le tengo una fobia a las matemáticas que no es normal. […] ¿Para los otros? No lo sé […] Yo sólo intentaría decir que si, que hagas todo lo que está en tus manos para poder cambiar esa situación, y si no, al menos transformarla para protegerte a ti y darte cuenta que, más allá de lo que te pueda decir, tú tienes una propia concepción de ti que, para mí vale mucho más que lo que puede decir ella”.

[11] “Saqué un 8 y medio, no me felicitó ni me dirigió ningún tipo de comentario, aunque me dio igual. Esa fue la mejor satisfacción y final que hubiera podido tener, la mayor demostración para ella y para mí de haber logrado romper el molde que había pensado para mí.”

[12] According to Bruner (1994, in Hull & Katz, 2006) a “turning point” is a “moment when peo-ple report sharp change in their lives” and “generate a connection between external events and internal awakenings, and agentive activity”.





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